UNIVERSITY OF UTAH forward Josh Grant says if he and the Utes had it to do over again, they'd play No. 1-ranked UNLV exactly the same way.
"I think the game plan we had was the one that would work," says Grant, whose offseason began last Thursday night in Seattle after UNLV's 81-65 win over the University of Utah in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 16. "I think we had the right idea, but it's not easy to pull it off."Grant says the Utes' strategy was to stop Vegas' quick transition in getting the ball to shooters Stacey Augmon and Anderson Hunt. Rather than going downcourt and positioning in the keyhole area, the idea was to go wider on the floor, to the spots where Augmon and Hunt habitually go on offense. Once those shooting options were reduced, the Rebels had to improvise out of their offense.
"Then you just get some big guys to block and get rebounds," says Grant. "But that was the problem. Sometimes they just went right over the top of us."
ADD GRANT: Reflecting on Utah's best-in-history 30-4 season, the 6-foot-10 honors-winning junior said his top five opponents list for the year would include:
1. UNLV. "They didn't even try hard and they beat us."
2. New Mexico. "They were good when they decided to play."
4. Michigan State.
Of Utah's four losses, three came at the hands of UNLV, New Mexico and BYU, the top three listed above. The fourth loss came early in the season to Michigan, a team that didn't make Grant's list. "They weren't that great," says Grant. "But neither were we."
SOMETHING TO GAIN: Speaking of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Panthers will play the Utes again in 1991-92, this time in the Huntsman Center. Utah's basketball schedule is virtually complete for the coming season, and in contrast to 1990-91, when three non Div. I teams were scheduled, none are included this time.
"We've got a couple of games we can still work with, and there's still a chance we could get a couple of TV games," said Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill, indicating that Utah's unexpected success has made the school more attractive as an opponent.
"The reasons bigger programs have been reluctant to come to Salt Lake," he said, "have been either because there are few alumni in the area, they don't recruit here, or they don't have much to gain with a win. Now, they do."
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Utah was a year late in making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. If the Utes had gone as far a year ago, they'd have been almost $500,000 richer.
This year, the Utes would have made around $280,000 even if they hadn't qualified for the tournament.
Due to different NCAA tournament income allocation rules and procedures, most of the leagues in the country, including the WAC, decided this year to distribute tournament income equally among all members. This year's WAC take from the tournament figures to be around $2.5 million, or about $280,000 for each of the nine league members.
Through last year's NCAA tournament, individual schools having success in the tournament tended to get the lion's share of the wealth.
For instance, for winning the 1990 title, UNLV came away with more than $1 million, while Utah State, a fellow member of the Big West Conference and a non-NCAA qualifier, made about $30,000.
This year, no matter whether UNLV wins the title or not, both the Rebels and the Aggies, who again didn't make the NCAA tournament field, will make the same - about $250,000.
"Gone are the days of the $300,000 jump shots," says Utah State Athletic Director Rod Tueller, referring to shots in previous tournaments that could make a school that much money, or cost it an equal amount - depending on whether they went in or out.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Louisiana State basketball coach Dale Brown on star center Shaquille O'Neal: "He is oblivious to pressure. The media doesn't agitate him and neither do referees."
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